La. mobile dentistry rules clear another hurdle

Louisiana appears to be nearing the finish line in its efforts to establish regulations governing mobile dental clinics providing care in schools across the state.

On August 19, the House Health and Welfare Committee voted 6-5 in favor of the new rules, which have been a bone of contention between the Louisiana State Dental Board and the Louisiana Dental Association (LDA) for more than a year.

The LDA originally sponsored legislation (HB 687) that would have banned the practice of nearly all dentistry in Louisiana schools. But after much debate and numerous amendments, the bill morphed into the version signed into law July 2009 by Gov. Bobby Jindal, directing the state dental board to promulgate regulations for anyone wanting to practice dentistry outside of a standard dental office and to restrict such dentists to those with Louisiana licenses.

In September 2009, the dental board published its rules, which included requiring mobile dentists to talk to children's guardians before treating them. But the school dentists objected to this part of the rule, and the Federal Trade Commission weighed in on the side of the school dentists.

This led the dental board to draft new rules, requiring only written, not verbal, consent from guardians and requiring the school dentists to tell parents their children should work with the dentists they already have. The rules were published in the May 20 Louisiana Register and were expected to take effect August 20, but the LDA was dissatisfied with the lack of a parental consultation requirement and asked for additional legislative review.

So in June of this year, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee met and ultimately voted in favor of the bill, setting a January 1, 2011, deadline for the rules to take effect but removing a clause that would dismiss the state dental board if the rules were not finalized by then. And now the House Health and Welfare Committee has followed suit, paving the way for the rules to potentially take effect in January.

"The review process on this set of rules is finished now, and it's a very nice feeling because we have removed the stress and pressure of having the board terminated by January 1 if these rules were not in place," Barry Ogden, executive director of the state dental board, told "Now we don't have to worry about that deadline, and we can all act as professionals in refining the rule."

The rules will be published in the September 20 state register, Ogden added, opening them up once again to public review. The board will then meet in December and "hopefully approve the new set of revisions," he said.

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